Bushranger’s

As we headed towards Tamworth this morning, I quietly ponder the differences between bushranger's and outlaws and come to the conclusion that our two worlds were very much the same.

Bushranger's such as Charles Goodnight, Thunderbolt, Ben Hall, Ned Kelly roaming the Australian bush committed similar offences to our distant American outlaw cousins.

I was looking at the landscape as we left Gunnedah and wondered what a god forsaken place it would have been back in the mid 1800's. Dirt, scrub, gumtrees and a whole lot of nothing in between.

Settlers would have made their way west of the coast over escarpments such as Gibraltar Range and the Great Dividing Range after explorers had deemed possible good land on the other side.

Stage coaches did run through areas of Australia just as it was the preferred mode of transport in America. Covered wagons? That I don't know but I'm sure there would have been some type of wagon or drays driven by horses or oxen into lands unknown.

Bushranger's here were just as varied as American outlaws, running on their own, in gangs, robbing stage coaches, horse stealing, cattle rustling and more. Was it out of necessity? Boredom maybe or revenge?

Whatever the case may be they kept Troopers on the run looking for them just as the Pinkertons were doing in America. Wanted posters went up and rewards were also offered.

Let's have a quick look at some of our Australian Bushranger's.

Ben Hall – (1837-1865) Hall and his associates carried out raids across Bathurst to Forbes, south to Gundagai and east to Goulburn. He was probably one of the gentler bushranger's of the time as he was not directly responsible for any deaths unlike several of his associates.

 

Ben turned to bush ranging after his wife and son left him. He was said to be a bushranger after being sighted with notorious Frank Christie (alias Gardiner) during a robbery. Later Gardiner, Hall and others robbed the gold escort coach of banknotes and 2700 ounces of gold.

Ben escaped conviction a couple of times and in the meantime lost his property and wandered the countryside drifting into a life of crime.

Ben and his gangs most notable, or one that I care to write about, was the bailing up of Robinson's Hotel in Canowindra, NSW. Where towns folk were kept hostage but given food and entertainment. The policeman was locked in his own jail cell for humiliation and when the hostages were finally released the gang insisted on paying the hotelier and compensating the townspeople 'expenses'.

Ben Hall was shot at Billabong Creek in 1865 supposedly under the protection of the Felons Apprehension Act 1865 which allowed any bushranger specifically named under the Act to be shot and killed by any person at anytime without warning. Although there was still controversy over Hall's death that the Act had not yet come into force.

Andrew George Scott 'Captain Moonlite' – (1842-1880) an Irish-born Australian bushranger. He was accused of disguising himself and forcing a bank agent he had befriended to open the bank safe. The agent described being robbed by a fantastic black-crepe masked figure who forced him to sign a note absolving him of any role in the crime.

 

The bank agent said it sounded like Scott but no gold was found in his possession. Moonlite managed to turn it around onto the agent and a local school teacher who became the principal suspects in the minds of police.

Moonlite stayed elusive for a while buying horses, a groom and maintaining a gentleman's life. He was eventually convicted for obtaining money by false pretences. After serving two sentences for that he was arrested for robbing the Egerton Bank and sent to Ballarat.

He succeeded in escaping gaol by cutting a hole through the wall of his cell. With another prisoner they seized the warden, gagged him, got his keys and let out four others before escaping over the prison wall. He was recaptured and after 8 days of self representation he was finally convicted and sentenced to 10 years hard labour of which he only served two thirds the sentence.

Frank Wordsworth 'Captain Thunderbolt' Ward – (1835-1870) renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island and for his reputation as the “gentleman bushranger”. He is said to be the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history.

 

Thunderbolt robbed the Rutherford toll-bar in 1863. Robbed mailmen, travellers, inns, stores and stations across Northern NSW and some parts of QLD. With 3 others, he then went on a crime spree in 1865 but that was soon disbanded after one was shot and captured near Moree.

Later the same year he got together with two other felons but the second gang also disbanded after one of them shot a policeman.

His next gang he only had younger accomplices that would do as he said. After one of them left, Thunderbolt stayed hidden, surfacing to do the occasional robberies. There is a cave named after him in the region he hid out near Uralla. He was shot and killed by a Constable Walker.

Edward 'Ned' Kelly – (1855-1880) of Irish descent, a bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer. One of the last bushranger's and by far the most famous. Ned wore bulletproof armour during his final shootout with troopers in Victoria.

 

Ned came from a poor family whose father had died when Ned was only 12. Third of 8 children, eldest male in the family. The family had gripes with authority. Ned was first arrested for associating with another bushranger Harry Power (Ned's bush ranging mentor) and served two prison terms for various offences, the longest being for receiving a stolen horse.

The Victorian Government proclaimed Ned, his brother Dan, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne to be outlaws after shooting three policemen dead. An act of revenge for the imprisonment of Ned's mother.

The Kelly gang crime spree included armed bank robberies, killing a sympathiser turned informer and stealing. The final showdown in 1880 after a failed attempt at derailing a police train, the gang dressed in armour had a gun battle with police. Ned injured was the only one of the gang left and was eventually tried, convicted and sentenced to hanging.

 

Ned Kelly is now a cultural icon in Australian folklore.

 

Bushrangers were those who had abandoned social rights and privileges, taking up 'robbery under arms' as a way of life. All in all, there were some 2000 bushranger's who had thrived during the gold rush years and indeed for almost a full century.

Now we are out of the ranges, trees and rocky outcrops back on the coast and my mind wanders to other things.

So in the final words of Ned Kelly, a famous saying now – “such is life”

Kat xo

Aka 'Ned' Kelli

Credits:

Kathouse Kelli – my wandering mind and random thoughts

Wikipaedia – Ben Hall, Captain Moonlite, Captain Thunderbolt, Ned Kelly, Harry Power, Bushranger's

 

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Get The Heck INTO Dodge

As the billboards display, it’s into Dodge, not outta Dodge.

After a good nights sleep in Colby we headed down the 83 to Garden City. Kansas has a lot of fertile farming land and it’s no wonder they call it Plainsmen country as it is just that – very very flat. Full of corn fields and feed lots, and then more corn fields and oil derricks.

On the outskirts of Garden City seems to be a large industrial hub and also a manufacturer for wind turbines. These things are huge when you see all the parts laying in a plant yard!

Onward we went heading east to Dodge City arriving around lunchtime.

Dodge City town burnt down twice in the 1880’s, front street as depicted now at The Boot Hill Museum (some buildings or facades were moved to the site, the rest was replicated in 1958) is a replica of what it looked like back then, however was originally about 2 blocks away.

Dodge City was dubbed The Wickedest Little City in the west. Now it seems to hold the history and the spirit but is a booming cattle industry/meat producing town amongst corn, wheat and other crops.

Other interesting facts to note, (there was so much information to take in on the Trolley Tour I couldn’t keep up!). Other than the famous and infamous cowboys, lawmen etc that travelled through and worked in Dodge City.

– Fort Dodge was established in 1865, originally a campground of sorts for wagons travelling the Santa Fe Trail.

– George Hoover established the first saloon in Dodge. A sod hut erected in 1872, he later became Mayor.

– First burial on Boot Hill was in 1872 (named Boot Hill because people were usually buried with their boots on) and the Alice Chambers, a dance hall girl reportedly to be the only woman to have been ‘planted’ on Boot Hill, however supposedly by natural causes.

– Dodge City was known as queen of the cowtowns until the Kansas quarantine law came into effect in 1885 when the longhorns carried a tick disease that infected local cattle.

– there were 2 front streets, the more ‘decorum’ North side where no firearms or dance halls were allowed (north of the tracks and on the side where the reproduction street is), and the South side which was the main business block of the 1880’s popular with buffalo hunters and cowboys, saloons, gunfights and ruckus! Separated during the times of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson trying to bring order to the city.

– The Long Branch Saloon was the most popular. Owned and operated by Beeson and Harris, later made famous by the television series ‘Gunsmoke’. Regular entertainment was given by the Dodge City Cowboy Band and was known for gambling and fine whiskey.

– between 1866 and 1872 it is said the population was around 1000 citizens that reportedly consumed enough alcohol to the equivalent of 150 miles/ year!!!

– it was also known during that time that only 13 people were Christians. Gospel Hill becoming know for it’s churches, the St Cornelius Episcopal church still has the original building from 1891 the stained glass windows are still original. The Presbyterian church that is there now is built on the original site, the gable being where the first church was and the bell in the courtyard is from the original Presbyterian Church.

– The Mueller-Schmidt house is original and listed as a historic landmark today and you can take tours through it.

– The Santa Fe Depot once a famed Harvey Hotel was one of the finest depots. The building at the end of the depot is the original Harvey girls dormitory.

– The first Marshall for Dodge was in 1875. The famous Wyatt Earp was an assistant Marshall or Deputy in 1877 and had a quite way of enforcing law. Bat Masterson also embodied the colourful tales of the Wild West. He was one of the first citizens buffalo hunting with his brother and a friend. Bat’s brother Ed was a Marshall which was a short tenure when he was shot by a cowboy in a saloon as he attempted an arrest.

– Butter & Egg Rd was originally used as a street for farmers to bring butter and eggs into town to be sold. The county here wanted to change it for 911 upgrade purposes to Laryette but the community got together and protested keeping the name of the road as it’s original. It sits out in amongst the feedlot heartland.

– There are huge feedlots here with up to 1.3million cows capability. 85% cow hides are used for leather goods like shoes and car upholstery. Nothing is wasted, even the manure is used for fertiliser on other crops.

– Dodge City is one of the richest wheat and cattle industries in the world.

– When Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came through on his quest for gold in 1541 when he gave up looking for the City of Gold they left the horses here which in part is how the Indians became proficient horsemen and they became the ride for cowboys to navigate the plains.

– 3 years of intense buffalo hinting nearly eliminated the buffalo by the end of the late 1870’s. Prior to the hunting a buffalo herd could be a mile long and one and a half miles in width.

– at Fort Dodge, the Custom House original building was the original commanding officers quarters. The wooden building housed military men.

– The museum library is situated in the original store house.

– The quarters for the men, two stone barracks and one of Adobe. All now sits inside the Military Kansas Veterans and is a state soldiers home, like a retirement home.

– 1500 trucks a day service business in Dodge, for meat processing and other major manufacturers.

– There are two major meat processing plants in Dodge, employing around 2 thousand people each. The Winter Livestock lots is the biggest privately owned and runs auctions every Wednesday.

Phew! A history bombardment, fabulous! Hot day too, 106F/41C. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

We decided to move on at around 4.40pm and not do the wax museum. Tonight we spend in Pratt, KS, homeward bound to Edmond, OK tomorrow.

See you on the trail again next week as we head to Kentucky! Yee haa!

Kat xo

http://www.visitdodgecity.org/index.aspx?NID=157

http://www.boothill.org